This week we are going to approach my Biblically-based opinions on denominational divides. I truly believe that the divide among Christians based on denomination is the greatest disservice to the Church. Through our constant division and bickering over some of the most petty topics we have depleted our Spiritual and physical unity while destroying a large part of our testimony as the whole and complete body of Christ.
In John chapter 17 Jesus prayers on our behalf for just the unity that we have so fully destroyed. Verses 20-23 say this.
My prayer is not for them alone. [meaning His disciples] I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one--I in them and you in me--so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
A couple thousand years ago, Jesus prayed for you and me. He prayed for His church, His disciples. Jesus prayed for unity. He prayed this not just so that you and I could experience peace within our dealings among fellow brethren, but He prayed for this so that we might not blemish our testimony and our presentation of Christ. Christ’s desire in this prayer is that through communion and pursued unity with God the Father and His Holy Son, that we might be able to become one unit of God. One force that would let the whole world know that Jesus is the Son of God.
Yet look at us. We fight over how often communion should be served, whether dancing or instruments should be allowed in service, whether speaking in tongues and prophecy are relevant and alive still today. We debate over clothing preference, wether adoption from foreign countries is appropriate given the orphans in our own country. We debate over how much to tithe, what version of the bible give God’s Word in the most accurate way, etc, etc, etc.
Now mind you, it is not that I believe all of these topics to be unimportant. I believe many of them are. I also believe that too often we pick these little battles and turn them into big ones. We fight with each other when God has called us and always given us the example to fight for the things He leads us to. Why are we so set on dividing up those who have come to Christ into separate groupings? Why are we so stuck in our ways that we are forcing others to “circumcise” themselves over our personal convictions before we let them join our clique? Galatians 5:2 (NLT) “Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you.”
I am not telling you to compromise your convictions, only to remember that they are just that, yours. God convicted you and is calling you in a certain area. This does not mean that every other follower of Christ will be convicted in the same way on the same issue. Keep that in mind and lend grace to those who fall short of your ideas of perfection. On the other side of the coin, if, say, your brother or sister in Christ feels convicted to partake in communion weekly and you don’t believe it is necessary; ask yourself how it will affect your salvation if you partake in communion weekly with your brother or sister in order to help them maintain their convictions. 1 Corinthians 8:13 “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother or sister to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause them to fall.”
If we want to be united the way Christ prayed for us to be united then we must be willing to sacrifice for the good of our brother’s and sister’s in Christ. If we want all to hear and understand the word of God, we have to believe that whatever version of the word of God reaches their ears and convicts their hearts can transcend human error. If we want to become a strong and cohesive unit for Christ then we must give opportunity for God given individual gifts, talents, convictions, and differences in opinion to prosper. I think above all else, when it comes to unity we must remember that while God’s Holy Word is true, and pure, and accurate and infallible, that the human interpretation of His word may not always be those four things. For this reason we must be willing to have open hearts toward new convictions from God. We must be willing to not only hear, but contemplate, meditate, and pray on the convictions of others that me may weigh their validity with knowledge and wisdom from the Father, not our own stubborn desire to be the one who is right. We, the Church, are in a time where the power of the many combined in unity with God will be our most powerful and effective tool for reaching the ends of the earth. Quite honestly, I would beg to say that from the time Christ spoke that prayer a couple thousand years ago that we always existed in a time where a united Church was the most effective Church. We have strayed too far from the biblical church, it’s time to make our way back.
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This subject has been on my heart for many months, and in the back of my mind for many years. However, I have put off writing about it for quite some time due to the topic's controversial nature. What about the “Biblical Church” could be controversial? you may ask. Well, the fact of the matter is that most, if not all churches, denominations, and Christians are a far cry from the original church. Let’s start this week by looking at the original Christian church. To do this we are going to head to Acts.
Lets start in Acts 2, verses 40-47 which says,
"With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, 'Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.' Those who accepted his message were baptized and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
From these verses we can gather several facts regarding the first church. First, those who accepted Christ were quick to get baptized and get involved. In fact they didn’t seem to waste any time all becoming part of the new church on the very day they accepted Christ. How was this church commitment possible you may wonder?
Point number two gives us insight into exactly how this was accomplished. It was possible because the church consisted of All believers. Verse 44 says, “All the believers were together and had everything in common.” The first church did not consist of separate entities or dozens of denominations. The first church was physically unified and it was spiritually unified. Later on in Acts we will see that some physical division occurred simply due to geographical restrictions, however, the concept was still the same. Followers of Christ made up one church. This unity is what fed fact number three. Those who are a part of the Church supported all other members of the church.
Verse 45 tells us, “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” Remember that many of those who were saved during this time were far from home. They had returned to Jerusalem for the celebration of Pentecost and when they were saved they stayed soaking in as much information as they could gather about their Savior. They stayed for fellowship, they stayed for support, for guidance, and for the unity that comes from eating and staying with those who are likeminded in thought. As they stayed leaving behind their homes and belongings everyone in the Church took an active role in providing for needs. Finally, fact number four tells us that God blessed this first Church, He blessed their unity and their desire and we know that as verse 47b tells us, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
This is where we will stop today, but I want to leave you with these questions to ponder this week. Is the modern day Church full of Christians who are quick to jump in and get involved? Is the Church fully unified, both physically and spiritually? Is today’s church providing for the needs of its members and all others who are in need? Finally, is God blessing the modern day church as a whole? I ask that you prayerfully consider each of these things as you move through this week and prepare yourselves for next weeks study.
Check out the companion video on YouTube.
So we are coming to a close with our study A Praying Couple is a Staying Couple. This week we are going to address the ever difficult topic of application. How do we create an environment where prayer as a couple is not just something we occasionally do, its not just done at the dinner table or at night before bed with the kids? How do we make prayer together an actively pursued desire in our homes?
My advice in this area comes as I am putting these things into practice myself. Start, stay consistent, and stay simple. While you can really tear apart the Lord’s Prayer and dig into its deeper meaning, the truth is even with its deeper complexities, the Lord’s Prayer is simple and straight forward. “This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
Christ gives us a short prayer. He gives us exact words to say and He does this knowing that the more consistently we pray this simple prayer the easier it will be for the Spirit to move us and aid us in our concessions to God. Romans 8:26 tells us, “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
Sometimes all we need to do in order for prayer to become second nature is to start treating it like it is even before we are fully comfortable with the idea. So start simple and stay consistent. Ask your husband to pray with you at a regular time each day that isn’t a time you would typically pray, i.e. dinner, bedtime. If he isn’t ready to pray when you are together, ask if you can pray over him and over your relationship while he is present. Finally for those of you who are facing and feeling this need alone, begin by simply praying for your husband. Pray for him to become the leader that God has been and is continually preparing him to be. Pray that God’s will and timing be your focus as you wait for your husband to take on his role as spiritual leader to its fullest extent.
Father God, we come to you asking for your help, asking that you continue to call us and our husbands to a deeper relationship with you through prayer. Bring us closer together as we draw near to you. Give us a desire for your timing and your will within our marriages especially when it comes to the rate in which our spouses excel in the same areas that we are excelling in. Give us the same patience and grace for our spouses that you have for us Lord. In your precious name Jesus, Amen.
Last week we looked at whether or not statements like “A Praying Couple is a Staying Couple” were biblical. This week we are going to look at why and how praying together would be beneficial. Let’s start with Mark 10 verse 9 which says, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” This verse is in reference to marriage. It clearly tells us that God has joined man and woman together, and that no one is to separate that God-given knitting together of two hearts.
This separation, while often times influenced by outside sources, is ultimately decided by one or both of the two individuals involved in the union. Therefore, it is the duty and responsibility of the husband and wife to be doing all that they can to prevent separation. Psalm 107:28-30 says, “Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.” How many times do our marriages face trouble, how many storms and turbulent waters do we go through? These verses tell us that a cry to the Lord in trouble is enough for him to make the storm be still.
Matthew 21:22 says, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive if you have faith.” A husband and wife who are prayerful together will not only be seeking the Lord’s will and help in their lives which will in turn strengthen each of their relationships with Christ, but they will also be exercising and growing their faith. There are times when it is difficult to believe in God’s power on your own, but when two of your are gathered together believing on the same loving, merciful, and gracious God, your faith has the opportunity to build off and grow with the the faith of your partner. This building will in turn also allow you to continue the journey of equal yoking as referenced in 2 Corinthians 6:14. If you want a man who is strong in the Lord ladies, then get involved in the building of his faith.
Finally, while there are many, many more verses regarding the blessings of a prayerful life I would like to share Philippians 4:6-7 “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Our prayers in our marriage allow for the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds. A strong Christian couple can be such a powerful testimony of God’s love for his people. Our testimony in marriage, is only as strong as our relationship to Christ. When husband and wife actively pursue God’s will in their marriage through prayer they allow God the opportunity to shield their hearts and minds from the many pitfalls that Satan throws at marriage. They allow God to build their faith and their testimony to further serve His purpose.
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